Palast: How the White House Drowned New Orleans


Richard Moore

checkout the video clip:

Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2007 17:28:49 -0400
From: Greg Palast <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Hurricane George:  How the White House Drowned New Orleans

How the White House Drowned New Orleans

by Greg Palast

[Thursday, August 23]  It's been two years.  And America's media is 
about to have another tear-gasm over New Orleans.  Maybe Anderson 
Cooper will weep again.  The big networks will float into the 
moldering corpse of the city and give you uplifting stories about 
rebuilding and hope.

Now, let's cut through the cry-baby crap. Here's what happened two 
years ago - and what's happening now.

This is what an inside source me.  And it makes me sick:

     "By midnight on Monday, the White House knew.  Monday night I was 
at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that 
the levees had breeched.  Nobody."

The charge is devastating:  That, on August 29, 2005, the White House 
withheld from the state police the information that New Orleans was 
about to flood. From almost any other source, I would not have 
believed it.  But this was not just any source.  The whistle-blower 
is Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State 
University Hurricane Center, the chief technician advising the state 
on saving lives during Katrina.

I'd come to van Heerden about another matter, but in our talks, it 
was clear he had something he wanted to say, and it was a big one. 
He charged that the White House, FEMA and the Army Corp hid, for 
critical hours, their discovery that the levees surrounding New 
Orleans were cracking, about to burst and drown the city.

Understand that Katrina never hit New Orleans.  The hurricane swung 
east of the city, so the state evacuation directors assumed New 
Orleans was now safe - and evacuation could slow while emergency 
efforts moved east with the storm.

But unknown to the state, in those crucial hours on Monday, the 
federal government's helicopters had filmed the cracks that would 
become walls of death by Tuesday.

Van Heerden revealed:

     "FEMA knew at 11 o'clock on Monday that the levees had breeched. 
At 2p.m. they flew over he 17th Street Canal and took video of the 

     Question:  "So the White House wouldn't tell you the levees had breeched?"

     Dr. Van Heerden:  "They didn't tell anybody."

     Question:  "And you're at the Emergency Center.'

     Dr. Van Heerden:  "I mean nobody knew.  The Corps of Engineers 
knew.  FEMA knew.  None of us knew."

I could not get the White House gang to respond to the charges.

That leaves the big, big question:  WHY?  Why on earth would the 
White House not tell the state to get the remaining folks out of 

The answer:  cost.  Political and financial cost.  A hurricane is an 
act of God - but a catastrophic failure of the levees is a act of 
Bush.  That is, under law dating back to 1935, a breech of the 
federal levee system makes the damage - and the deaths - a federal 
responsibility.  That means, as van Heeden points out, that "these 
people must be compensated."

The federal government, by law, must build and maintain the 
Mississippi levees to withstand known dangers - or pay the price when 
they fail.

Indeed, that was the rule applied in the storms that hit Westhampton 
Dunes, New York, in 1992.  There, when federal sea barriers failed, 
the flood waters wiped away 190 homes.  The feds rebuilt them from 
the public treasury.  But these were not just any homes.  They are 
worth an average of $3 million apiece - the summer homes of movie 
stars and celebrity speculators.

There were no movie stars floating face down in the Lower Ninth Ward 
nor in Lakeview nor in St. Bernard Parish.   For the 'luvvies' of 
Westhampton Dunes, the federal government even trucked in sand to 
replace the beaches.  But for New Orleans' survivors, there's the 
aluminum gulag of FEMA trailer parks. Today, two years later, 89,000 
families still live in this mobile home Guantanamo - with no plan 
whatsoever for their return.

And what was the effect of the White House's self-serving delay?

I spoke with van Heerden in his university office.  The computer 
model of the hurricane flashed quietly as I waited for him to answer. 
Then he said, "Fifteen hundred people drowned.  That's the bottom 

They could have survived Hurricane Katrina.  But they got no mercy 
from Hurricane George.


For the rest of the story, get the DVD, 
EASY TO BIG EMPTY:  The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans," 
as reported by Greg Palast from Louisiana for Democracy Now - with 
Amy Goodman and the music of "the city that care forgot."  Watch a 
clip at 

And read the full story of our investigation in the added chapter on 
New Orleans in the paperback edition of "Armed Madhouse:  from 
Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White 
House Gone Wild." 
here to donate to our Investigative Fund and receive a book signed by 
Greg Palast as a gift from us.


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